Proposal to create position withdrawn

A bill to combine the positions of information technology director and finance director was withdrawn Tuesday and no plans have been announced as to what will happen next with the city’s vacant finance director position.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, 1st Ward Councilman and bill sponsor Bob Weber withdrew the proposed bill before any action could take place.

On Jan. 23, Jefferson City announced the promotion of Bill Betts, current information technology services director, to the yet-to-be-created position of assistant city administrator. The new position would combine the IT director and finance director positions after the city’s two national searches failed to find a new finance director.

The promotion was decided in a closed session vote Jan. 22, though it technically couldn’t take place until the new position officially was created in open session, which was scheduled to happen at the council meeting Tuesday.

In withdrawing the bill, Weber said the process to create the position was not done in the best way.

“I think our intentions were good, but I think the process could have been better,” Weber said.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said he’s not sure the council went about creating the position in the right way, but he hopes the idea itself will not be discarded.

“A lot of people in the community told us we didn’t go about it in the right way,” Scrivner said. “I hope that, as a council, we will not throw the baby out with the bath water in terms of reorganization.”

Scrivner said many department directors report to the city administrator and having someone in the position of assistant city administrator could be beneficial to the city.

“I think it deserves to go through the vetting process of committees,” Scrivner said. “The idea of reorganization is not a bad one, in my mind ... I think it could help the city be more efficient.”

But what will happen next is still undecided. The council could put the same bill back through the committee process before going to the council level or decide to return to the idea of simply trying to fill the vacant position of finance director.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said there are no particular plans yet on what to do now that the bill has been withdrawn, but staff likely will “drop back” and let the council direct what happens next.

In other business, two proposed charter amendment were placed on the informal calendar Tuesday. Both bills concerned city elections: One would place a charter amendment on the ballot to allow for elections in February, while the other would place a charter amendment on the ballot to eliminate the need for a primary election. The original plan was to put both amendments on the August ballot.

But last week, several council members expressed fears that having both amendments on the same ballot would confuse voters. Another issue is whether the city would be allowed to use a February date for anything other than bond issues.

State law took away February primary dates, except in cases where a charter city specifically required a February election in the city charter. Because Jefferson City’s charter does not specifically require a February primary, only that a primary election must take place, the council set the primary for March.

According to section 115.123 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, “bond elections may be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, but no other issue shall be included on the ballot for such election.” The statute also states public elections may take place when “expressly provided by city or county charter.”

The Cole County clerk has said if the city tries to place anything but a bond issue on the February ballot, the issue likely will wind up in court.

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